The Digital Experience and Design

Margaret Gould Stewart, Facebook’s director of product design, delivered an incredible talk over on TED.com. She describes the digital experience and dives deep into the user experience. This topic is incredibly important for us to remember when considering building our websites and developing or changing design aspects online. Our community atWebsites Made Easy.tv can benefit greatly from Margaret’s talk. I’ve summarized some of her key points for us here and I encourage you to learn from her expert advice and apply these concepts to your own design decisions.

In her talk, Margaret describes the design of digital experiences. She describes the design of systems that are so big that their scale can be hard to comprehend. She talks of the massive scale of what the internet has achieved. Google processes over 1 billion search queries each day, Facebook transmits photos, messages and stories of over 1.23 billion people each day and YouTube has over 100 hours of footage uploaded every minute. The Internet is obviously so vast beyond comprehension and as a community of website designers and builders here at Websites Made Easy.tv, we’re putting ourselves out there along with all these others.

Margaret Gould Stewart describes her experience as a digital designer for the user experience. She describes how hundreds of hours went into changing the Facebook “Like” button. Something that may be considered so insignificant in terms of size, but so universal in the number of places it appears. She describes the constraint that went into designing the button. It had to adhere to specific pixel measurements, had to be translated into dozens of languages, and could not be too fancy in terms of gradients and borders because it had to work on old web browsers as well. She says, “This innocent little button is seen on average 22 billion times a day and on over 7.5 million websites. It’s one of the single most viewed design elements ever created.” Not many of us have equal amounts of pressure in our design elements, however we each have specific audiences who also have their own preferences. As website designers, we need to consider our audience and build a website that is designed for our end user in mind.

She stresses that analyzing the data behind how your user interacts with your website is not a hard science, but rather takes a huge amount of consideration. She describes her experience at Facebook in analyzing reported photos of people and them wanting their friends to remove them. She says that it wasn’t enough to simply add a button that reports the photo. It wasn’t enough to even suggest sending that “friend” a message. They concluded that by creating a brief set of options to narrow down to the specific complaint, a user could send a pre-written message to their friend that is tactfully written in order for them to take the photo down. This is one example of how the user experience works today.

She says, “These decisions (for design and the user experience) are highly nuanced. Of course we use a lot of data to inform our decision, but we also rely very heavily on iteration, research, testing, intuition, human empathy. It’s both art and science.” She goes on to say, “Data can help you make a good design great, but it will never make a bad design good.”

She goes on to describe how seemingly small changes need to be considered very cautiously. She describes that people have a sense of ownership behind a design. And when considering making a change, even if it is for good in the long run, the introduction of change can be an incredibly frustrating experience when it happens. This is an important reminder to us as web designers in that we should consider what is truly helpful for our audience before implementing a change to our website, how to introduce the change, and educate accordingly.

She describes that you have to understand to whom you are designing for and to design for where they are. If your audience is artistic and up to date on the latest fashion trends, then design a website focused on the visual aspects and user experience. If your audience is data driven, provide a logical progression of menus and tabs. If your audience is highly engaged with the written word and relies heavily on the community and discussion, then provide plenty of design elements that accommodate their needs for commenting.

Margaret concludes by saying that the humility part is a little tough on the design ego. She describes that products are always changing and thus design will always change. Your designs today will eventually fade away, but the one thing that does remain is the thrill of being a part of it all.

To see the whole video, follow this link to TED.com. And be sure to check out their other videos on just about any topic you could imagine from world-class speakers.

Lastly, if this article and video just completely overwhelm you, there’s no need to worry. We’re here to help with any of your design needs and difficult real-world questions. Check out our helpful video tutorials that guide you through the challenge of building a website. You’ll find that with our help at WebsitesMadeEasy.tv, you’ll be creating your website in no time. And if you already have a website, check out some of our in depth tutorials on critical website building tactics to better your personal blog or business website.

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8 thoughts on “The Digital Experience and Design”

  1. Howdy! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my good old room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this post to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!

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